In John 16:33 Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble.” We really don’t like that, but it is a fact of life in our fallen world. We are subject to the trials and ills that sin has wrought. Sometimes things are of our own doing, but often from events beyond our control. It is not God’s punishment, but he has allowed it along with the promise that He is in the midst of it with us. When Moses was recounting the history of Israel in the 40 years of wandering before they entered the Promised Land, he said to them, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart…” (Deuteronomy 8:2) The mystery of why evil is allowed will be with us until we are fully in God presence in the Kingdom. We can’t say that every trial is punishment, or even for our need to be humbled. What every time of trial does, however, is present us with the choice of giving in to self-pity and despair, or clinging to God in trust. Life will never go along smoothly and trouble free as we would like, but we do put our trust in our Lord who walks every path with us. And there are many lessons to be learned along the way.
There is a verse in the book of Romans that many people know, even if they don’t know where it comes from. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(8:28) Facing a difficult time I’ve heard people say, “Oh, it will all work out for good.” I’ve always thought the statement comes more from wishful thinking than any real faith. For if we look at the whole verse there seems to be a condition on it. “Of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This speaks of a relationship with the Living Lord. It is true that God is in control of all things, and not a sparrow falls without God’s notice. But for those who do know their Lord they can look beyond the present condition in trust of the truth of God’s love and care. It is possible to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(I Thessalonians 5:16-18) We face many hurts and hardships in life, but God is still present and He cares. Trust Him and He will see us through.
Some years ago Francis Schaeffer Wrote a book entitled How Shall We Then Live?. In different areas of life he showed how we have progressively moved away from the will of God. His question is perhaps even more valid today. Our personal world faces trials, illness, and death. Our society has come to a place of fear at taking part in even the most wholesome of events, with hatred and suspicion at every turn. The evidence of a fallen and corrupt world surrounds us. How shall we then live? In all creation there is only one place with a satisfactory answer. That answer must be found in our God who has come among us in Jesus Christ. He came to share the brokenness of this world with us, to take the guilt of our sin into His own life reconciling us to God, defeating the power of death, and assuring us that there will be a time when all tears will be wiped away. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But we do not face that trouble alone. We walk day by day in the strength that our Lord provides. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” In Jesus Christ we shall live.
When things happen, especially if they are bad or hurtful things, we want to ask the question, why? But actually, even having an answer to that question would not be very helpful. We could blame God, blame sin, blame somebody else’s stupidity, even, as a last resort, blame ourselves, but none of this helps. What we need to know is where God is in the midst of it all. The truth of Scripture tells us that He is not far off. Even if we don’t sense His presence, or see Him working, He is there. He cares about every situation we face, every trial that comes our way. If we have sinned, His forgiving grace is always available in Jesus Christ. His strength is sufficient to see us through. We have his assurance that even if a particular trial would be life long, it is still temporary. He promises a time when every tear is wiped away and all crying ceases. So it is not the “why” answer we need, but the “who”. And that who is the Lord Jesus Christ, the one loving us beyond measure, and standing beside us in all times.
We’ve often said that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but He really does give us more than we can handle. If all of our trials and temptations were only at the level we could handle, we wouldn’t need to depend upon Him. But our trials, and struggling with our temptations, force us in one of two directions. We can do, as Job’s wife counseled him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Or as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”(13:15) Life is difficult. We have many needs, pains, and pressures, some very tragic. We don’t have all the answers, many we will never have this side of eternity. But the question always is, “In whom do we trust?” Only in our own reason, ability, and strength, or in the One who loves us with an everlasting love, who truly is working in all things for our best good, and to turn our hearts more to Himself? We soon find that our strength is limited, but His never is. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9)